Authorities in Missouri recently revealed that a man charged with a deadly drunk driving accident from 2012 faces deportation when sentenced by a St. Louis judge this coming week. The case revolved around the Bosnian immigrant’s guilty plea earlier this year to involuntary manslaughter charges.
Police say that Elvedin Halkic crashed into another vehicle after running a red light in St. Louis back in March of 2012. The man, who is not a U.S. citizen, had a BAC of 0.12 percent at the time of the crash. After police spent more than a year building a case against Halkic, he and his attorney chose to take a plea deal.
As part of the guilty plea, Halkic is now eligible for a sentence that includes a possible 15 years in prison or even deportation, a stiff penalty that comes as a surprise to many who may not have realized such punishment was possible for a crime related to drunk driving.
Recently, a group started an online petition demanding that Justin Bieber be deported after his drunk driving arrest in Florida. Though the fact that Bieber has managed to stay in the U.S. while people like Halkic appear poised for deportation may seem like special treatment of celebrities, experts say that there’s a reason for the difference.
First things first, a drunk driving arrest by itself is not sufficient basis for deporting a non-citizen. That’s because DUIs/DWIs do not qualify as deportable offenses. Additionally, drunk driving convictions cannot, by themselves, serve as a basis for denying a non-citizen reentry into the U.S. after traveling outside the country.
Those crimes that do qualify as deportable offenses include things like drug crimes, aggravated felonies (as is the case with Halkic) and a wide array of other crimes that involve “moral turpitude.” Moral turpitude refers to crimes that have been committed with a bad intent, things like violent assault or thefts. A Supreme Court case from 2004 specifically addressed the issue of DUI/DWI convictions, finding that such charges are not crimes of violence and thus do not qualify as aggravated felonies under immigration laws.
Though a DWI by itself won’t serve as grounds for deportation, in some cases judges have found that drunk driving charges in conjunction with other issues, such as crashes that caused harm to others or accidents that occurred while driving on a revoked license, could serve as the basis for deportation.
Though Bieber and others who have a simple DWI on their record may not need to fear being denied entry to the U.S. or being deported, the DWI might impact their citizenship process. Though a drunk driving charge usually won’t derail someone’s naturalization, it can delay the process while agencies perform additional background checks and ask applicants to jump through additional hoops.
Source: “Man Faces Deportation, Up to 15 Years for Drunk Driving Accident,” by Brian Kelly, published at StLouis.CBSLocal.com.